Let’s be honest, when you see film poster with a mud covered Joe Thomas and the words “From the creators of The Inbetweeners” written at the top, the cynical film fan in you might be forgiven for a rolling of the eyes or a slightly disappointed sigh. As successful, and for mostly good reason, as The Inbetweeners TV series was, it spawned two also fairly successful films; so is a film staring one of its lead actors and made by the same team that made said series and films going to be a pointless cash-in on the success of the above? The signs certainly point to that.
Fortunately for all involved, The Festival (written by Keith Akushie and Joe Parham) retains the humour that you’d expect from director Iain Morris, but also offers a nice coming-of-age feel that, although will feel slightly familiar to Inbetweeners fans, still offers a fun, entertaining ride for comedy fans in general.
Joe Thomas plays Nick Taylor, a young man about to graduate from university. On the outside it might seem Nick has a fairly happy and normal life; he has a best friend, Shane (Hammed Animashaun) and a pretty girlfriend, Caitlin (Hannah Tointon) and is off to celebrate graduation by going to a festival with Shane, Caitlin and some other friends the weekend after the ceremony. But, as the awkward sex scene between Nick and Caitlin at the start of the film shows, Nick’s life isn’t quite as happy and straightforward as it appears.
This is exemplified when he has a breakdown at the graduation ceremony on stage after Caitlin dumps him. Cue the inevitable mourning period of staying in bed, not eating, cry-wanking – we’ve all been there… but Shane manages to convince him to get up and come to the festival as it might just cheer him up, help get over Caitlin and give Nick a new lease of life. Plus the tickets were really expensive.
If the above sounds kind of familiar and predictable then, well, it is really. But by this point, there have been some funny lines, wince-inducing moments and at least one gross-out bit akin to American Pie-style humour – or, more directly, There’s Something About Mary (think about that one, you’ll see) – that are entertaining enough to pull you in early on. And this is to The Festival‘s credit as coming-of-age comedies might be ten a penny, but if done right, they can be genuinely heart-warming and funny despite often having predictable plots. A strong start is essential really and The Festival succeeds in that respect; and by the end of the first act you know this will be a fun watch at the very least.
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The scenes at the festival itself are as entertaining as you’d want/expect. With the awkward meet up of Nick and Caitlin, their first since the break-up, Nick being pissed on as he searches for Caitlin’s lost phone in the crowd, fake legs, police chases, a hot smurf (Emma Rigby), unwanted and drunken/drug induced tattoos and piercings, an awkward but funny striptease scene, you know, standard festival fare.
But the highlight, definitely in terms of character, has to be Claudia O’Doherty’s loveable oddball Amy. Mostly known for her TV work, including Netflix series Love, Australian actress, writer and comedian O’Doherty shines here. The lone regular festival attendee that meets Nick and Shane on the train to the festival, Amy might appear annoying at first but her heart is clearly in the right place as she attempts to prevent Nick and Shane having to confess to a ticket inspector that they brought children’s tickets because they were cheaper by pretending to have sex with them in the toilets! Of course, this doesn’t end well but we do get treated to some hilarious anecdotes from Amy as the three have to walk to the festival from a train station a few hours away from the festival site after getting kicked off the train. As the film goes on, you really do grow to love Amy’s strange humour and caring, free spirit nature and it’s this character and Claudia O’Doherty’s performance that hold the film together in lots of ways. I’m sure Amy is indicative of at least one person we know in real life, which is a main part of what coming of age films are about: relatable characters.
Nick’s is an interesting character journey. It’s quite a well written and thought out character in a way as the more the film goes on, despite it being pointed out to you by various characters throughout the film, Nick is actually a very selfish person. It’s something that comes to the fore when he risks the entire weekend looking for Emma Rigby’s Smurf Girl character, despite knowing how much Shane wants to see his hero, DJ Hammerhead (Noel Fielding) so, in keeping with the coming-of-age theme, mistakes need to be made in order for lessons to be learned and, of course, it makes sense that nobody needs to learn these lessons more than Nick.
Despite not being entirely original or particularly game changing, for its genre (see this years DVD release of the weird and wonderful How to Talk to Girl’s at Parties for that) The Festival is still a funny, entertaining and worthwhile watch that carries all the tropes you’d want from a film of this type. It has enough fun cameos and guest appearances to raise a smile, which at the end of the day, is what you’d want from a film made by the guys that created The Inbetweeners.
Unfortunately, extras for The Festival are sparse with only a VFX Breakdown, showing how they made it look like there were thousands of people in a field at a festival using computer imagery, which is great if you like that kind of thing. It’s only a few minutes long though. Better than nothing.
The Festival is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Download from today, 10 December.